Brexit: Global and Political Affairs Unit briefing


September 25th, 2019

In a unanimous judgment yesterday, the UK Supreme Court concluded that the Prime Minister’s advice to Her Majesty the Queen to suspend (or ‘prorogue’) Parliament was unlawful, void and of no effect. Parliament has decided to meet today, as a result, and it is expected to vote down a government motion requesting a short break (recess) to hold the Conservative Party Conference next week.

The situation in respect of Brexit is relatively unchanged, although the possibility of a no deal exit on 31 October has been reduced. The default remains that the UK leaves the EU, with or without a deal, on that date and the Prime Minister has repeatedly committed to pursuing that course of action, despite legislation requiring him to make a request of the EU to extend the Brexit negotiating period by 19 October.

As a result of yesterday’s judgment, MPs are able to take further action to try and prevent a no deal exit on 31 October. The judgment also implies the courts will act swiftly in the event of a challenge to or attempt to defy the extension request legislation. MPs are unlikely to agree to hold a General Election before a no deal Brexit on 31 October has been averted via the granting of a Brexit negotiating period extension.

What is likely to happen now?

The judgment means that Parliament has not been prorogued and will meet again at 11.30 this morning, as decided by the Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow MP. The Lord Speaker has announced that the House of Lords will sit again from 3pm today.

It is anticipated the House of Commons business today will be dominated by Urgent Questions to Ministers from MPs seeking to hold government to account, having been prevented from doing so by the purported prorogation.

A motion from the government is also expected seeking to pave the way for a short parliamentary break (recess), to allow the Conservative Party conference to go ahead next week. This is unlikely to be agreed by a majority of MPs, since the government does not command a majority in the Commons. The conference is nevertheless expected to go ahead, with reduced MP involvement.

The impact of the Supreme Court ruling and subsequent recall of Parliament on Brexit is likely to be limited. It does, however, allow MPs more time to take further action to try and prevent the UK leaving the EU without a deal on 31 October, thereby reducing that possibility. Before the purported prorogation of Parliament on 9 September, Opposition and rebel Conservative MPs passed emergency legislation requiring the Prime Minister to seek an extension to the Brexit negotiating period before 19 October, in order to avoid a no deal Brexit on 31 October.

The Prime Minister has repeatedly said he will not ask for an extension to the negotiating period, and this remains a possibility, in which case the default is for the UK to leave the EU on 31 October (without a deal). Yesterday’s judgment suggests the court will act swiftly and decisively if the Prime Minister tries to defy or legally challenge the legislation that forces him to ask to delay Brexit. An extension request from the UK is highly likely to be agreed by the EU, which holds its next heads of state (European Council) meeting on 17 October.

It is likely the government will try again to get agreement from MPs to hold a General Election, having failed to do so twice in early September. MPs are unlikely to agree to a General Election until an extension has been secured, and therefore a no deal exit on 31 October avoided. Current polling suggests that a General Election may result in another Hung Parliament and therefore might not provide a resolution.  An increasing number of MPs are calling for another EU referendum before a General Election is held in order to resolve the issue, but this does not have majority support in the Commons.

Opposition parties have decided their latest positions on Brexit at their party conferences in recent days. If Labour wins power in a General Election, it would remain neutral while negotiating a new deal with the EU within three months. It would then hold a referendum within six months, and the party would decide which side to back ahead of that at a special conference. The Liberal Democrats have pledged to revoke the Article 50 request to leave the EU in the event they are able to form a majority government, and to push for a People’s Vote referendum in the event that they are not.

The chances of the government achieving a revised UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement that can command a Parliamentary majority remain slim but not impossible. Options for the form this might take are set out in the GPAU Brexit briefing of 24 July, available here.

What does this mean for the University of Nottingham?

The political situation is highly volatile and it remains possible the UK will leave the EU without a deal on 31 October. The University is monitoring the situation closely and continuing its no deal preparations accordingly.

What is University of Nottingham doing?

The University is stepping up its no deal preparations in advance of the October 31 deadline.

  • Preparing for No Deal

The University is stepping up its preparation for the UK leaving the EU without a deal, primarily via the No Deal Incident Management Team, chaired by Registrar Dr Paul Greatrix, which has increased the frequency of its meetings.

The team has been monitoring developments to manage University operations in the event of no deal, and has identified ‘Brexit Contact’ staff in each area of the University to manage local impacts. This includes ensuring the preparedness of our supply chains to continue to provide research materials, goods and services; continuity of travel arrangements to the continent and associated insurance issues; and contractual and legal issues in the event of a no deal scenario. The team is engaged in scenario planning and briefing colleagues across the University.

  • Communications

To ensure Brexit Contacts and the wider University has clear and accessible information and advice in the event of ‘No Deal’, we will use the Brexit Information Hub on our webpages as the principle repository for information. The hub has dedicated sections for staff, students, and researchers and will be regularly updated as information becomes available. The hub will also host a Q&A section which will be updated with questions and answers as they arise.

In the event of a No Deal scenario, clearly, events may be fast-moving leading to questions from staff and students. We will provide briefings and updates via email cascades to Brexit Contacts, Heads of School and Professional Services departments. Students will receive relevant information via their fortnightly newsletter and social media channels. In all events, the same information will be presented on the Brexit Hub.

If you have a question or require advice, please study the Brexit Hub and its Q&A initially. Should you require further information, please get in touch with the relevant Key Contact listed below or email the EU-Task Force mailbox.

 

  • Reassurance and support for our EU staff

The EU Settlement Scheme enables EU citizens to apply for either settled or pre-settled status (for those who’ve been here fewer than five years), allowing them to continue living in the UK post-Brexit. The University recommends all staff who are (non-Irish) EU citizens apply to the scheme before 31 October. Applications are free. People who have paid an application fee during the test phases will receive a refund. HR-related Brexit questions can be directed to hrbrexitadvice@nottingham.ac.uk.

The Vice-Chancellor hosted the University of Nottingham European Staff Celebration event on 19th March to celebrate the contributions of our European colleagues, recognising this is an extremely worrying time. Read more about the event here.

  • Guaranteeing research funding

Colleagues in the University’s Research and Innovation department have registered all EU-funded current projects with UKRI so they can be covered by the UK government’s underwrite, intended to keep projects running in the event of a no deal Brexit. Research and Innovation are also standing by to perform the financial and contractual management tasks that will facilitate the underwrite, should it come into play. Read more about the government underwrite here.

  • Guaranteeing Erasmus+ after Brexit

The University of Nottingham is proud to have one of the largest Erasmus+ student mobility programmes in the UK. The government has assured universities it is working on the basis of the UK remaining a participating country in the Erasmus+ programme. However, in the event of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit, the government has only confirmed it will underwrite the UK’s participation in European based student mobility for the 2018/19 academic year. The Office for Global Engagement is in the process of registering with the government to claim this funding.

In the potential absence of government funding beyond 2018/19 (in the event of no deal), the University will continue to underwrite outgoing student mobility programmes to the EU and Erasmus+ partners for the next three years to 2021/22. More information here.

  • Looking beyond Brexit

The University’s EU Taskforce provides strategic direction for the University to prepare for and navigate a post-Brexit environment. Chaired by Deputy Vice-Chancellor Andy Long, and reporting to the University Executive Board, it is modelling scenarios and developing approaches to ensure the University continues to thrive post-Brexit in terms of its student recruitment, research partnerships, funding and grants, and evolving its global outlook.

Further reading 

For more information contact Amy Williams, Global and Political Affairs, amy.williams@nottingham.ac.uk

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